Tuesday, June 6

How I've Become Less Frugal Since This Blog Started

Every time I write my monthly spending report, I ask myself whether I am being as frugal as I possibly can be.  Of course, the answer is no.  There's a tricky balance between spending as little as possible and paying for the conveniences that make my life better.

There are a handful of expenses I could do without, but right now I choose not to:

  • I pay $26/month for an unlimited car wash package.  When a new car wash opened up a mile from my house, I caved.  It's so much easier to run the car through the wash and use the free vacuums.  I'm more likely to drive for Uber in my spare time now that my car is always clean.
  • I pay $35/month for a Wall Street Journal subscription.  I want to make money from investing and need the proper tools to do so.
  • I pay annual fees on three credit cards.  While I recently canceled two credit cards that charge an annual fee, I've decided to keep the other three for now.  It's simple:  the value I get from these cards is worth more than the fee I pay each year.  With that said, I may get rid of the Marriott Rewards card.  I get a free night each year, but the annual fee is $85.  On the IHG card, I also get a free night but only pay $49/year.


Sometimes I wonder if I justify my expenses as a way to avoid the effort of getting rid of them.  I don't think I am doing that.  Most of these costs help me either make more money or save money.   Plus, we continue to be more frugal than most of our peers.  Some of the things we don't spend money on include:

  • cable TV
  • trash removal
  • drinking at bars
  • expensive cars
  • jewelry, expensive clothes, and other status symbols

Sunday, June 4

My Frugal Miser - May Expenses: $9,892


My spending in May is deceptively high:  take out the non-recurring expenses, and I was moderately frugal last month.  In May, I advanced another $5,000 to the contractor who is remodeling both bathrooms in my home.  I spent $975 for the crown over my implant.  I'm happy to report this implant is completely done now.  I also paid E*Trade $832 to borrow shares of Sears stock.  Absent these costs, I spent about $3,000 last month.

One bit of good news:  I have now fully depreciated the cost of my car.  That has been one of the biggest monthly expenses.

Food spending for the two of us was $254, and most of that was eating out.   We were out of town 13 days last month and we usually don't have a way to heat food, so eating out is easiest.  In June we will be in Europe for 13 days and I expect our food spending to be especially high.

May Expenses:  $9,892

$1,145 Auto ($12 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $598 depreciation, $535 6 months insurance)
$277 Bank Fees (2% fee on 0% cash advance offer)
$13 Clothing
$0 Computer
$122 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$257 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$5,135 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$847 Interest Expense*
$1,109 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$80 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$63 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$403 Utilities
$380 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In May, I paid $832 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Friday, June 2

My Frugal Miser - May Income: $12,101


May was a solid month.  I worked two big meetings and a few dinner meetings.  I also did a good bit of delivery driving for Amazon.  I made some money on a realized gain when I covered a short position on Sears Holdings.  The gains were achieved in one day, which I was pretty excited about.


May Income: $12,101

$3,247 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$47 Uber
$50 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,049 Amazon Deliveries
$6,355 Rental Income
$29 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$1,077 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$247 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Wednesday, May 17

My Frugal Miser, Summer Edition

It may not officially be summer, but the weather in the Tampa Bay begs to differ.  In exchange for living in paradise six months out of the year, we have six months of living in an oven.  I've chosen travel as the best medicine for dealing with the ailment that is known as stifling heat.

Iceland & Amsterdam

We will kick off our summer with a frugal European tour.  Our Wow Airlines tickets were under $400 each, and we're keeping it low by traveling with backpacks that fit under the seat in front of us.  Not to worry... we are masters at washing clothes in the sink.  Besides, who wants to lug big suitcases around the subway or on foot in the Netherlands?  We're spending three nights in a two bedroom AirBnB apartment just outside Reykjavik.  Those three nights cost less than one night at a hotel in the city.  For the rest of the trip, I redeemed hotel points, so all of our lodging is free.  Our food costs will be higher than normal, and we'll have some other expenses related to tours and admission fees, but it won't be astronomical.

Surgery

After we return from Europe I have to have surgery on my sinuses.  I've had an infection that won't go away.  Since summer is our slow season for work, it makes sense to take care of this now.  Unfortunately, it does mean I had to cancel two jobs I would have worked in June.

Home Remodeling

I hired a contractor to remodel both bathrooms.  Progress in the first bathroom is well underway, and I imagine it will be finished within a week or two.  I've asked the contractor to finish the second bathroom before my surgery.  Depending on cash flow, I have some other jobs around the house I'd like to get done.  The backyard fence is falling apart, and there is a laundry list of other smaller jobs I want to get done.

Belize

If we must deal with the heat, why not do it somewhere exotic?  In August we will spend a week on a small island off the coast of Belize.  Caye Caulker is so small that there are no cars.  We will take a water taxi from the mainland, and a golf cart will carry us to where we will be staying.  We redeemed Southwest points for our flights out of Fort Lauderdale, and I snagged the cheapest tickets possible on Megabus to get from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.  Our condo on Caye Caulker for the entire week was only $305.  I plan to do as little as possible while there!  Seriously, I'm bringing books to read and ample sunscreen.  We'll surely rent kayaks and maybe visit some Mayan Ruins, but the purpose of this trip is rejuvenation.

Finances

Lastly, I'm getting close to crossing a major threshold financially:  transitioning from paying off debt to accumulating cash.  I started this blog in 2009 when I was looking at hardcore ways to pay off the half a million dollars in debt that I had.  My goal for 2017 is to reduce debt to $150,000, which is more or less the point I am comfortable with long-term.  Towards the end of the summer, I should be able to start allocating excess cash to my E*Trade account.  I'll still be whittling away at debt, but it's going to be super exciting to start building up financial resources for our future.

It's going to be an exciting summer.  What do you have planned?